Board of Regents urges state to reinvest in public university system (August 21, 2008)
University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
Day One News Summary
The University of Wisconsin System is seeking reinvestment from the state to help graduate more students, to create leading-edge jobs in Wisconsin, and to grow strong communities under its proposed biennial state budget request for 2009-2011.
At a full Board of Regents meeting Thursday in Madison, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly recommended a budget that continues prudent state investments in the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, UW System’s strategic plan first introduced by Reilly and the Regents in February 2006.
Building on bipartisan legislative support and strong endorsements from local communities, the Growth Agenda focuses on growth, access and affordability at each of UW’s 26 campuses and through the statewide UW-Extension.
“Local stakeholders understand that this is not about building a bigger university,” Reilly said. “It’s about building a vibrant state where our children and grandchildren will enjoy a high quality of life.”
UW System’s request for new initiatives in the 2009-11 operating budget seeks $37.5 million in additional state general purpose revenue and $13.4 million in fees, for a total of $50.9 million of ongoing funding to support the Growth Agenda.
The Growth Agenda includes initiatives that directly address Governor Doyle’s top priority of economic development.
UW System’s Growth Agenda request includes plans to provide additional access to more than 7,000 full-time-equivalent students with many of these initiatives targeting adult non-traditional students who are more likely to stay in the state after graduation. It also includes other initiatives focused on increasing jobs in the state through technology and workforce development, and matching university resources with needs in civic, nonprofit, business and other community ventures.
“The Governor’s priorities and budget instructions align well with our Growth Agenda,” Reilly said, adding that state investment will also be needed to sustain the UW System’s current academic operations, to cover utility costs, and other inflationary factors.
Reilly emphasized that the UW clearly recognizes the economic realities facing the state, and that the 2009-11 Growth Agenda has been reduced by one-third, based on the total requests submitted by the individual institutions.
Regent John Drew of Milwaukee expressed concern over the continuing gap between UW faculty compensation and that offered by peers, and how that could impact budget discussions down the road. Saying the issue is frequently raised on campuses he has visited, Drew asked Reilly and the Board about what might be done to bring the UW System back into a competitive position.
UW System President Kevin Reilly
Reilly said the UW is working in cooperation with the Office of State Employee Relations and the Bureau of Economic Analysis to address the problem.
“This is a huge issue for us,” Reilly said. “It’s a huge issue for faculty and staff who are employed here now. And it’s a huge issue because of the demographics of many academic staff who will be retiring in the relatively near future. We have to have an overall compensation package, not just salary, that’s competitive for our folks now and for the fierce competition we will be in with universities all over the country as baby-boomers start to age out of the academic workforce and we’re competing for new younger folks to come in.”
Regent Jeffrey Bartell called the proposed operating budget “very responsible.”
“This is a very challenging biennium that we’re addressing, both in terms of the Governor’s directives and in terms of the economic uncertainties,” Bartell said. “It would be easy to build in tuition as the flexible part of this and allow tuition to increase more than it did.
“I was particularly pleased to see that we are able to continue the Growth Agenda the way we are, providing access to more than 7,000 additional students, many online,” Bartell added. “Also, (I’m impressed) with the economic growth initiatives, the business connections, the New North program. Campuses have been very creative in coming up with these proposals.”
The Board is also requesting a capital budget that would require $139.7 million in state-supported bonding for new major projects, remodeling and expanding academic facilities. The university has pledged $88.9 million of private matching funds for these projects. In addition, the Board is seeking authority to construct $257 million of new projects that will not require any state support. The Board is also requesting $130 million in state-supported bonding for maintenance, repair and renovation of existing academic facilities.
David Miller, the UW System Associate Vice President for Capital Planning & Budget, told the Board that the submitted budget is responsive to the economic climate. He said that while the System had received $550 million of funding requests for new state bonding for 2009-11 alone, it has trimmed those requests and is recommending $140 million in 2009-11 and $155 million in 2011-13 for the highest priorities.
He also said that it might be helpful to view the recommended projects in the context of the 56.5 million total square feet of space that the UW owns and operates.
“The projects comprising the 2009-11 budget will only impact about 2.1% of our total space,” Miller said. “The space impact is roughly equivalent to a half bath in an average home.”
Miller said that because of the enormous backlog of capital improvements needed at every campus, due to the preponderance of construction in the 1960s and 70s that is now becoming obsolete and requiring significant renovation or replacement, the most difficult task is prioritizing those needs.
Several Regents and Chancellors voiced concern that the capital budget process overall has become dysfunctional.
“We have a perfect storm brewing on this topic,” Reilly said. “We have all of these buildings built in the 1960s and 70s that are reaching the end of their useful life right at the time when … chancellors are working very hard to raise the funds to support renovations and building new buildings. More and more, people who are making those gifts are saying when are these buildings going to start? What’s the problem?”
“We’ve got big battles ahead and we have got to somehow figure out how to make donors happy,” added Regent David Walsh.
Reilly reminded the Board that the capital budget is an area where their decisions can have “an immense and immediate positive impact on Wisconsin’s economy.”
Using a standard economic multiplier, the total UW System capital budget proposal could translate into a $1.7 billion economic impact statewide and more than 20,000 Wisconsin jobs.
“That’s good news for all of us,” Reilly said.
Regent President Mark Bradley thanked the Board for its close consideration of the proposed budgets and reminded Regents that they will vote on the matter Friday morning.
Following budget guidelines issued by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the UW System will formally forward its budget request by September 15. The request then will be considered as the Governor’s Office prepares to release an overall state budget proposal early next year.
View the UW System’s Biennial Budget presentation [PDF}
UW-Madison’s Robert Golden, Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health, presented the 2007 Report of the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) to a joint session of the Budget, Finance & Audit Committee and the Education Committee.
The report, developed annually by the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in collaboration with the Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee (OAC), describes the activities leading to the awarding of grants by both the OAC and by the Medical Education and Research Committee (MERC) for projects that advance population health in Wisconsin.
Golden reported to the Committees that according to the most recent Health of Wisconsin report card, Wisconsin gets a B-minus grade in overall health and a D grade for addressing health disparities within the population.
“Some of these problems have been here for quite some time … but we should expect to be held accountable for meeting certain milestones,” Golden said.
The work of the WPP extends the Wisconsin Idea through community-academic partnerships and through collaborations of the SMPH faculty across UW-Madison, UW System, and the state to advance population health, Golden said. The WPP also facilitates bringing research “from the bench to the bedside and into communities.” In addition, transformation educational programs have incorporated the principles and practices of public health into the curriculum and provided increased training opportunities to the public health workforce.
The OAC and MERC are now actively working on evaluation and planning as they move forward with the development of the next five-year plan (2009-14), which will be reviewed by the Board in December 2008.
View the Wisconsin Partnership Program presentation [PDF]
“If Milwaukee is going to compete with its peer cities, that statistic [number of degreed residents] needs to double,” said Santiago.
The Committee recommended approval of the Western Technical College Associate of Science Degree Liberal Arts Transfer Program. The degree program will be delivered in La Crosse, collaboratively between Western Technical College and UW-La Crosse, utilizing courses and resources of both Systems.
State Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch
State Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch appeared before the Education Committee to speak on behalf of the proposed Associate of Science program.
“It is another opportunity for the students of today and for students that are coming back into the System, perhaps from the workplace or other opportunities, to get that education, to get that four-year degree,” Huebsch said.
“I’m certain you have all sat here and discussed, as we have in the Capitol, the fact that Wisconsin does lag in (the number of four-year degrees awarded). We need to provide greater opportunities, greater flexibility and the chance to get that four-year degree (for people) to move on and expand not only their individual lives and the benefit it will mean for them, but also the Wisconsin economy and the future of our state.”
Regent Danae Davis thanked Huebsch for his input and also for his strong support of the university.
“You get it, clearly. Your passion comes through,” Davis said.
The proposed program will serve students attending the Western campus in La Crosse who prefer a campus-based program, but are limited because of distance. If approved by the full board tomorrow, the program will offer an option for students to begin a college career close to their home, and with a clear path to a four-year degree.
Two years after implementation, the program will be comprehensively reviewed by the Western-UW-La Crosse Joint Steering Team.
UW-Platteville Provost Carol Sue Butts presented her institution’s Academic Plan to the Education Committee. The plan is part of the ongoing efforts to apprise Regents of each institution’s academic program planning and array.
Butts told the committee that UW-Platteville’s academic program planning is grounded in the institution’s mission and in its founding program areas of engineering, technology management, agriculture, criminal justice, education, and business. Seventy-four percent of UW-Platteville’s students pursue one or more of those programs. That mission and strategic planning focus is also evident in the recently developed online and other distance-delivered programs such as its engineering programs offered with the UW Colleges, and its Masters programs in Wuhan, China.
Reilly said that UW-Platteville’s efforts to expand the reach of its programs demonstrates how the UW is able to move programs around without necessarily requiring bricks and mortar.
Service to the community also is a core component of UW-Platteville’s mission, Butts added, and community engagement is a fundamental part of the academic experience of its students and faculty. The Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement will open this fall and will serve as a conduit to connect the university’s academic resources, students and faculty with the community.
View the UW-Platteville presentation
The Education Committee recommended approval of a new Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering at UW-Stout.
The major emphasis of this program will be in the design of hardware and software for engineering systems that utilize embedded digital processors such as microprocessors, microcontrollers, digital signal processors and personal computers. Embedded digital processors are incorporated into nearly every device containing electronic components, including mobile phones, automobiles, traffic signals, factory automation systems and computer network routers.
Many of the resources necessary to implement this program are currently in place, including qualified faculty members, engineering and computer science courses, and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities allowing UW-Stout to implement the B.S. in Computer Engineering in a cost-effective manner. UW-Sout requested and received base budget funding for Computer Engineering from the 2007-2009 Biennial Budget.
“I’m thoroughly convinced (this program is) needed,” said Regent Mary Cuene, also citing the many letters received from community and business leaders in support of the program.
“I think you win the prize on supportive letters,” added Regent Judith Crain of Green Bay. “It was remarkable.”
In other business, the Education Committee:
- Approved three UW-Milwaukee charter school contract extensions: Woodlands School; the Capitol West Academy; and the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee;
- Approved the appointment of Dr. Valerie Gilchrist to the Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Partnership Program;
- Authorized the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies at UW-Eau Claire;
- Authorized the Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at UW-River Falls;
- Authorized the Master’s of Science in Clinical Investigations at UW-Madison; and
- Heard a presentation by Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin regarding the Annual Report on Academic Program Planning and Review.
View the UW-Stout new degree presentation
Business Finance and Audit Committee discusses the increasing demand for mental health services among students
The Business Finance and Audit Committee reviewed a report on mental health counseling services currently offered across the UW System. At the time of the audit, all of the UW comprehensive institutions and three UW Colleges offer mental health counseling services for students. Ten UW Colleges do not currently offer services; however, they will begin to do so in the 2008-09 academic year.
Although the number of students seeking mental health services has steadily increased in the past four years, now to approximately 22 percent, there has not been an increase in the number of professional counseling staff in the institutions.
Julie Gordon, director of the UW System Office of Operations Review and Audit, pointed to a number of reasons why campuses are seeing a greater need, including increasing enrollments and more veterans on UW campuses.
Common services currently offered at UW institutions include individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, mental health screenings and referrals.
Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler expressed her concern with the fact that more and more students do not have health insurance to cover the costs of counseling services.
“There is an ethically commitment to those individuals,” said Gordon, pointing to a recommendation by the report to ask UW institutions to develop a process of following through the transfer of care of students identified as being high risk.
The report also recommended a number of suggestions aimed at attempting to ease the current strain on the institutions, including limiting the number of therapy sessions an individual student can receive and charging students fees for expensive psychiatric services.
“There is no silver bullet,” said Gordon.
The Committee also reviewed an audit regarding student credit card debt and credit card solicitation on UW property. An initial study was done in 2003; however, the Board of Regents requested updated information this past April.
The report shows that UW institutions have increased efforts to educate their students about responsible credit card usage and financial literacy.
Additionally, the review found that, overall, UW institutions have taken a number of measures to limit on-campus credit card solicitations, including restricting credit card vendors from offering free gifts to entice students to sign up for credit cards.
The Committee further reviewed an update on operational excellence and efficiency as part of the Growth Agenda Action Steps. The Operational Excellence Working Group was formed with the objective of developing a number of initiatives that could enhance existing efforts and allow UW institutions to manage ever greater workloads without the addition of new resources, allow the reallocation of resources to higher priority activities, and recognize excellence where it exists.
In other news, the Committee:
- Discussed the trust funds spending policy;
- Received an update on the private equity program;
- Received a quarterly investment report;
- Performed a follow-up review of the occupational health and safety training for UW employees;
- Received a quarterly report from the Director of the UW System Office of Operations Review and Audit on the status of six projects currently under way; and
- Heard a regular report from Vice President Deborah Durcan.
The Committee then went into closed session.
In other news, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:
- Gave authority to adjust the project scope and budget, as well as construct the UW-Madison Chazen Museum of Art Project;
- Authorized the construction of Phase I of the Facilities Management Relocation Project at UW-Oshkosh to remodel a vehicle maintenance facility and storage buildings that were transferred to the university in May of this year;
- Approved the construction of the Phase I of the Boebel Hall Remodeling Project at UW-Platteville;
- Authorized construction of the Steiner Residence Hall Renovation Project, which is the second of four planned residence hall renovations at UW-Stevens Point;
- Approved the construction of twelve minor projects under the all agency maintenance fund program. Two of the projects are UW-Madison energy conservation projects that are funded with program revenue that is to be repaid by energy savings through the fuel and utilities account; and
- Received a report by Associated Vice President David Miller on building commission actions.
The committee then met briefly in closed session.
Photo Credit:Jim Gill
The Board of Regents will resume its August 2008 meeting
on Friday, August 22, at 9 a.m.
in room 1920 Van Hise Hall, Madison WI
Related: Read August 22 (day 2) news summary